woman eating saladYesterday I was talking with a couple friends about diets. Not in the “I-need-to-go-on-a-diet” way, rather in the “it’s-important-to-eat-a-heathly-diet” way. In the world of marketing, specialty foods is big business. Organics, gluten free, allergy free, lactose free…food is definitely not what it used to be. There is a lot of misinformation about diets out in the world. And there is a lot of misunderstanding of what a healthy diet is.
Here is my breakdown of seven of the biggest food myths floating around today.
1) Gluten Free Food is Health Food
Gluten free food is gluten free. That’s it. If you have celiac disease, thank goodness for these foods because they probably make your life more convenient. If you’re intolerant to gluten, or just don’t eat gluten (like me), these foods can be the kiss of death. Why? Because a lot of people go out of their way to eat these foods thinking that they’re healthier, or have some sort of magical power to help them lose weight. They don’t. A lot of gluten free commercially processed foods contain oodles of sugar, plenty of other grains and a whole lotta empty calories that your body probably doesn’t need.
I don’t think gluten is particularly good. But I don’t go out of my way to buy gluten free foods. First of all, they’re way too expensive. Second, there are plenty of other foods that are naturally gluten free that don’t come in a package. Vegetables, fruits, beans, meats, fish, dairy and other grains, like quinoa and rice are all gluten free. Oh, and let’s not forget about dark chocolate. These foods are also a lot cleaner than other packaged foods. My two cents: if you’re going to go gluten free, make it less processed.
2) Fat Free is Always Better
Not true. Healthy fats are, well…healthy. Your body functions a lot better when you get healthy fats in your diet regularly. Sometimes when people meet with me to review their diet, they say something like, “I ate a really healthy breakfast today. It was an egg white omelet with spinach.” If they’re not looking for advice, I just smile. If they’re a client, I explain that yes, it’s healthy, but it would have been healthier if the omelet were made with whole eggs. You can eat fat. Just make sure you’re not sitting down to a brick of cheddar or pint of Ben & Jerry’s. But adding olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, eggs, nuts or other sources of healthy fat to your diet will only benefit you. Often times, these fats are metabolized very quickly. Unhealthy fats, like canola, corn or soybean oil are not good, but often found in packaged foods. Avoid those.
3) All Fats Are the Same
The only thing all fats have in common is that they’re insoluble in water. The rest is different. Trans fats are just plain bad and should be avoided all together. Saturated fats are good, but a little goes a long way. Some unsaturated fats are good, like olive oil, avocado, almonds, etc. Just watch out for the unsaturated fats that have been sitting on grocery store shelves for too long. (See point 2) Air, light and heat make unsaturated fats go bad quickly. When this happens, those fats oxidize, or go rancid. When they go rancid and we eat them, they release free radicals into our body. Free radicals damage our body like rust damages a car…making us get sicker easier and look older faster. And as always, stay away from trans fats. Even the smallest amounts hurt you. 
4) Calories Are Created Equal
Calories in calories out doesn’t always pan out. If you’re eating a diet made up of 2000 really clean calories, full of nutrients (minerals, vitamins, fiber), your are going to totally turn your metabolism on, making it a really efficient fine-tuned machine. If you’re eating a diet made up of 2000 calories of dead food, lacking nutrients and probably higher in sugar and other junk, you’re going to slow your body down and put weight on. Eat clean. Not too much. Move more and you’ll be fine.
5) Drinking Diet Soda Will Help Keep Weight Off
Yet another example of how calorie-free foods can actually tweak your metabolism in such a way that the prevent you from losing weight. Studies have shown that people who regularly consume diet sodas have a larger waistline than those who don’t. What’s more, diet sodas tend to trigger cravings for other foods that are sweet. Diet sodas are also full of neurotoxins, like aspartame. I realize that getting people to quit drinking diet soda is a lot like getting people to quit smoking. You’ll only see the benefits that come from quitting after you do it. Personally, I’m a big fan of club soda. If i really want more flavor in it, I might add a little fresh juice.
6) All Organic Food Is Good for You
This is similar to point one. In general, all organic fruits, veggies, grains, dairy products, meats, etc., are better for you than their conventional counterpart. They were grown or pastured in an environment that was loaded with nutrients and without herbicides, fungicides, etc., so their byproducts will possess the same qualities. Conventional foods are usually grown or pastured in really messed up environments, sprayed with loads of horrible toxins and contain a sliver of the nutrients that organics do. But do you really need to buy organic store-bought brownies? Well, if you really like the taste. But this is where organics starts to get a little frivolous. Easter is coming up. Even if I were to buy my kids jelly beans, I assure you they wouldn’t be organic.  Buy organic CLEAN foods. If the processed foods are a treat and not something that is an integral part of your diet, it might not be worth the money. And it’s probably not much healthier.
7) I Should Eat As Much Fruit As Possible
Fructose is fruit sugar. Yes, fruit is healthy, but it is possible to get too much of a good fruit. Our body only needs so much sugar – in any form. Fructose gets metabolized by the liver, and if too much is eaten, the rest gets stored as triglyceride. I’m not suggesting that any refrain from eating fruit. A couple servings a day is great. But it’s not necessary to eat a pound of grapes in one sitting, or finish off a large meal with a fruit salad. Eat fruit, but eat more vegetables.

Traci is a nationally recognized health and fitness expert who has been featured on The TODAY Show and Dr. Oz. Traci is available for corporate speaking events and wellness coaching, as well as private training. Contact Traci here


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